When it comes to city breaks, Berlin’s got something for everyone. It’s got fascinating history, both the recent stories of the Berlin Wall but also its wartime history and museums artifacts dating back thousands of years. Then there’s the modern vibrant, multicultural culture of street art and global music. And there’s the great nightlife, whether you’re looking for a lazy afternoon in a biergarten or a clubbing marathon. Berlin is one of Europe’s cheaper capital cities, but prices can still start to add up. Here are some suggestions on what to do in Berlin if you’re on a budget:
Take a free walking tour. For a good introduction to the city, there are a few different companies which offer free walking tours where you just tip your guide (a tip of 5-10 EUR per person is enough). For general city tours, Sandeman’s New Europe have a 2.5-hour tour from Starbucks at Brandenburg Gate multiple times a day and Brewer’s Berlin Tours also have a 2.5-hour tour from Rosenthaler Platz at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. every day. Or for something a bit different, Alternative Berlin Tours run a 3-hour tour of street art and subculture in the Kreuzberg district, starting from the Alexanderplatz TV Tower at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Walk around the city center. If you don't want to take a tour, you can just walk around by yourself – luckily, most of Berlin's famous sights are free. Start at the Reichstag, stroll the Tiergarten, admire the Brandenburg gate, visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, walk down the well known street of Unter den Linden, take some pictures of the Museum Island, head over to Alexanderplatz and its TV tower, and look at the graffiti in the East Side Gallery.
Have a picnic in the park. If you’re in Berlin in summer, head to the huge Tiergarten park for a picnic among its 600 acres of lawns and lakes. Or for an afternoon on the beach, take a 20-minute train ride south-west of the city to Strandbad Wannsee, a lido with over a kilometre of sand. There’s also the smaller Strandbar Mitte urban beach along the River Spree by Museum Island from April to September.
Listen to classical music. For classical music fans, there are free lunchtime concerts at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays in the foyer of the Berlin Philharmonic from September–June. They’re performed by members of the orchestra and music students and last around 40 minutes. Get there early as they’re limited to 1500 spaces. There’s also the annual Fête de la Musique in June with free music concerts, from classical and jazz to reggae and punk, performed in over 100 venues across the city from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Explore the musums. Museums in Berlin are relatively cheap. Berlin’s Museum Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is home to five museums with artifacts from 6000 years of history. Each museum charges 10–12 EUR for entry (half price for concessions). But better value is the combined one-day Museum Island area ticket which costs 18 EUR (9 EUR for concessions). Entry is free to all the museums for under 18s. There are also a couple of city passes which give you discounts on museum entry as well as other attractions and public transport. The Museum Pass lasts three days and gives entry to over 30 museums and exhibitions, including those on Museum Island, for 29 EUR (14.50 EUR for students). Or there’s the general Berlin Pass which gives you free entry to 50 museums and attractions, as well as a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. Many of the city’s other museums are free to enter. Other museums have free entry on certain days. The Märkisches city history museum, Nikolaikirche church, Ephraim-Palais and Bröhan museum of art nouveau and art deco all have free entry on the first Wednesday of the month.
Enjoy the city view. For one of the best Berlin views, head to the glass dome on top of the Reichstag parliament building. Choose this option if you want to observe the city from above but don't want to pay 15 EUR for the viewpoint on the TV tower. Entry’s free but you need to book in advance on their website. It’s is normally open daily from 8 a.m. to midnight (last admission at 10 p.m.), but can be closed if the weather’s bad or when parliament is sitting.
Go partying. On a buzzy, bar-lined street in Friedrichshain, Süß War Gestern has no entry charge before 11 p.m., a winning combination of retro nostalgia and a packed dance floor at weekends. Free entry to Trust, a collaboration by the nightlife barons behind Cookies and House of Weekend, ensures that a boho crowd rolls in six nights a week. Follow the trail of techno heads with boots and black lipstick for freebie raves including Open Air To Go, where the DJ’s set reverberates from dozens of portable radios brought by the participants. If you prefer a more mellow evening, pay whatever you feel is fair for vino at one of the three branches of Weinerei.